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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

BCS Facilitates Dialogue Between the Court and Bronx Workforce Training Programs

Over the past ten years, Bronx Community Solutions has developed strong relationships with Bronx judges and have broadened their sentencing options, even designing special initiatives that address large, systemic issues. A couple of months ago, a Bronx Judge expressed to us a wish to address the employment needs of misdemeanor offenders who are arrested for selling drugs, administrative untaxed code violations and/or other crimes associated with poverty. Armed with a charge to combine innovation with tangible solutions, Bronx Community Solutions was asked by this judge to facilitate a discussion between him and relevant community programs around workforce issues, community resources, program eligibility, and general employment readiness barriers. The judge’s specific goal was to discuss the feasibility of creating a direct vocational training pathway in arraignments through community-based collaboration targeted toward the specific needs of Bronx misdemeanor defendants.

On March 12th, Bronx Community Solutions hosted a meeting with the judge and three community-based vocational programs: Phipps/Justice Corps, UpNext and Henkels & McCoy. The judge shared his observations and ideas with the program representatives, and everyone discussed the nature of the problem of under/unemployment and workforce development in the Bronx. The represented vocational programs shared program parameters on client profiles, eligibility requirements, services, placement and aftercare. The judge was able to express his viewpoint of understanding the risk-need-responsivity principles that employment barriers have on criminogenic behavior. In response, the community partners were granted access to not only understand the needs of the bench, but be part of a network working to provide clients with direct and unobstructed access to services. 
Moving forward, we will have several additional meetings to determine concrete objectives, logistics, screening tools, identify court and community stakeholders, and further program development and court buy-in. What began as a judge’s straightforward inquiry to BCS ended as a mission for innovation with concrete steps put in place.  

- Elizabeth Swan-Taylor, Coordinator of Court and Intake Operations

Monday, March 16, 2015

BCS Hosts Second Career Talk for Interns

Bronx Court Officers with BCS Interns for the second lunchtime career talk
It's another one for the books. Bronx Community Solutions hosted a second successful career talk for our interns, this time featuring two court officers who shared with them what it's like to do their work in the Bronx Criminal Court. 

With its ‘kick-off’ in October, ‘Career Talks’ are a part of a new and innovative approach to the development of a formalized internship program at Bronx Community Solutions. Despite the recent loss of funding that supported the Center for Court Innovation’s AmeriCorps program, BCS has been able to conduct ‘business as usual’ by way of recruiting intern volunteers for 6-12 month internships. Career Talks have been a way to provide interns with insightful information about a particular career track, in addition to the practical training and exposure that they receive working in a criminal justice environment. Once per month, lunch is provided for interns as well as the invited court staff member or members who present on the ‘ins and outs’ of what they do, and answer questions. 

This time around, Court Officers Dave Jennings and Andy Ayala provided intuitive information on what it means to be peace officers and discussed the rewarding as well as the negative aspects of the job. The takeaway was that they very much enjoy their jobs, which is notable as each of them have been serving the NYS Unified Court System for over a decade. The BCS interns left the career talk well-informed on what it takes to become a court officer, and what it's like to do that job every day.

- Lovis Nelson-Williams, Compliance Coordinator

Friday, March 13, 2015

BCS Embarks on Ten Weeks of Cleanup in the 44th Precinct

BCS crew painting over graffiti in the 44th precinct
This month, the Community Initiatives Department of Bronx Community Solutions was contacted by New York City Police Officers from the 44th  Precinct requesting support in the form of targeted graffiti clean-up in sections of the South Bronx, within Community Board District 4. The culmination of our partnership was a commitment on behalf of the Bronx Community Solutions Community Service Crew to embark on a 10-week, hot-spot graffiti clean-up initiative supported by police officers of the 44th precinct, the Department of Transportation, The Department of Sanitation, and community resident volunteers. Bronx Community Solutions will be providing crews of 10-15 community service participants as well as clean up supplies (jump suits, gloves, masks and paint). Community Service Crew Supervisor, Matthew Usher, and myself, will be the Clean Up supervisors for this project. 

BCS Crew Supervisors and community partners in front of the finished project at Summit Avenue
This past Wednesday, March 11th, Bronx Community Solutions conducted the first of these 10-week graffiti impact projects. Eight Bronx Community Solutions participants met at 8:00am in front of the Bronx Criminal Court where Matthew and I picked them up and headed to our first location: 1165 Clay Avenue, the site of an industrial business. Our second location was Summit Avenue, a residential area. We painted over graffiti in each of these locations, and the pictures show the impact that was made. 
Clay Avenue, before
Clay Avenue, after!
We are preparing ourselves for the next project, which will happen on Wednesday March 18th. Stay tuned for more posts on this project!

- Moises Reyes, Coordinator of Community Service and Initiatives